Thursday, July 12, 2012

Recruiting in Franklin County, Ohio: July-August 1862

On Saturday, 19 July 1862, the Daily Ohio State Journal, Columbus, Ohio, published an article entitled “Report on Recruiting”. The article was a detailed set of instructions for establishing and conducting recruiting stations in Franklin County, Ohio.

Its author, Captain Riley, had been tasked by the Franklin County Military Committee to provide a memorandum of standard operating procedures for orderly recruitment in Franklin County. This recruiting drive was a response to President Lincoln’s 2 July 1862 call for 300,000 volunteers. National defense policy, derived from the experiences of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, 1846, established a small standing army but gave the President power to call for volunteers. How those volunteers would be recruited was the responsibility of individual states.

The process used by Franklin County, Ohio, is summarized below from Captain Riley’s memorandum of instruction.

First, Captain Riley’s memorandum instructed that there will be a recruiting office in each township in Franklin County. If the township is large, one or more recruiting stations may be established.

Second, the Military Committee will appoint a recruiting officer for each recruiting station. The appointed officer will take an oath and become an enlisted man in the United States Army.

Third, the appointed recruiting officer will be given the rank of Sergeant.

Fourth, each Recruiting Sergeant is authorized to rent a room and provide a drummer and a fifer. Those expenses will be paid by the Military Committee.

Fifth, the Recruiting Sergeant is also authorized to order recruiting posters from the County Committee for Posters and Circulars announcing the hours of the Recruiting Office and other pertinent information. He is also authorized the purchase of an American flag for the station, which, along with the posters, will also be paid for by the Military Committee.

Sixth, an Agent, who will be a member of the Military Committee, is authorized to visit Recruiting stations as often as possible. He may charge his travel expenses to the Military Committee. The Agent from the Military Committee is also authorized to arrange public meetings; instruct and advise the Recruiting Sergeant; inspect quarters to insure that recruits are provided the appropriate subsistence allowance; and pay for any transportation necessary. The Agent will submit all requests for reimbursement with duplicate receipts.

Seventh, each Recruiting Sergeant will prepare duplicate muster rolls that will include the full name of each recruit, his Post Office address; whether he is single or married; if married how many children he has; or if single whether his parents are living. A copy of the muster roll will be sent to the Secretary of the Military Committee to insure that he and his dependents receive relief or assistance from the County Military Fund.

The men who volunteered in Franklin County in July and early and August 1862 were assigned to the newly formed 95th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (95th OVI). When a sufficient number of men had been recruited, they were ordered to report to Camp Chase, which was located in southwestern Columbus, Ohio. The men were organized into companies, and issued arms and equipment. They were mustered under the command of Colonel William Linn McMillen (1829-1902) into Federal service on 19 August 1862. The regiment was assigned to Cruft’s Brigade, Army of Kentucky, Department of Ohio.

Ten days later they were ordered to attack Major General Edmund Kirby Smith’s veteran Confederate regiments at the Battle of Richmond, Kentucky (29-30 August 1862). That did not go too well for the 95th OVI.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Civil War Sesquicentennial Notes: War Ends

This concludes the series of Civil War Sesquicentennial Notes I published in 2011 in family emails focusing on the last days of the Civil War.

Sunday, 9 April 1865. It was Palm Sunday. As Grant had mused the previous day, Lee was considering a fight. Lee thought an attack against Sheridan’s Cavalry Corps north of Appomattox Courthouse might provide time and space for the rest of his army to retreat toward Leesburg. Confederate scouts and pickets reported that two more Union corps had maneuvered behind Lee, blocking his exit. Some of his staff officers urged that they let the men exfiltrate to fight as guerrillas. Lee, it is believed, rejected the idea saying that they would just become marauders and would be hunted down by the Union cavalry. Guerrilla warfare, or “bushwhacking”, was more dishonorable than surrendering. Even so, Lee said that he “would rather die a thousand deaths” than surrender to General Grant. Lee, of course, did no such thing. Rather he sent a dispatch through the Union lines to General Grant agreeing to surrender. They met at the home of Wilmer McLean in Appomattox Courthouse at 1400 hours. In one of the ironies of the war, Wilmer McLean’s home in Manassas, Virginia, was destroyed in 1861 during the Battle of Bull Run. After that battle he purchased land that was so far away from the war it would never again affect him. Lee stood on the porch of McLean’s house wearing a clean, dress uniform and sword. General Grant arrived on horseback wearing his standard “slouch” hat, a muddy enlisted man’s coat, without rank insignia. He looked like a private. They shook hands and went into the parlor. Grant’s said he would allow Lee to surrender his Army, that they were to “stack arms” (give their rifles and pistols to the Union Army), and go home. Lee asked that his men and officers, who unlike the Union Army, owned their own horses, be allowed keep them. Grant said yes. Moreover, Grant said, the Union Army would provide rations, provisions, and medical care to Lee’s near starving 28,000 soldiers. Lee and Grant signed the surrender document. They shook hands. It was over.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Review of "Chancellorsville Battle App"

On Saturday 20 May 2012 I visited the Chancellorsville National Battlefield Park and used the “Chancellorsville Battle App”. The app is available from the Civil War Trust at, and features interactive GPS enabled maps; three GPS guided battlefield tours; maps; text; primary documents and photos; video presentations by an expert historian; orders of battle; time line; information about the park; and information about other historic points of interest in the area.

This app, which is free, is the result of a joint venture of the Civil War Trust, The Virginia Department of Transportation, and the developer, NeoTreks, Inc. The project directors were Rob Shenk of the Civil War Trust and Michael Bullock of NeoTreks, Inc. The historians for the project were Robert K. Kirk, who appears in the videos, and Eric Mink, historian at the Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania National Military Park.

This app is designed to be used on the battlefield or as a stand alone educational product. This app will accurately guide the user through three tours of the battlefield; explain the geography, the context, and the events that occurred where the user is standing. It does so with a variety of texts, graphics, readings, and video presentations. In addition, one can click on “Battle Overview” for a general presentation of the entire campaign, and “Battle Resources” for further factual data about the battle, the armies, and leading personalities.

Each of the three battlefield tours include extensive information about the length of each tour, the walking distance, the driving distance, detailed (using the GPS map feature) directions, an interactive military contour map with unit markings and times, contemporary street maps (with satellite images), safety information, other points of interest, and even the location of the nearest public restrooms. Each tour is accompanied with an excellent explanatory video, readings from primary sources, and contemporary drawings and photos.

The app is available for iPod and Android platforms and is easily downloaded. Because many battlefields do not have Wi-Fi, this app can also be downloaded to one’s smart phone or tablet so that the only link needed is the GPS, which is available on all battlefields. The download feature also means that the user can use the product before and after visiting the battlefield.

The content of the app is accurate, well organized, and well presented. It is useful to any first time visitor as well as any second or third time visitor. It also serves as a stand alone history of the battle. The historians and developers have taken what is arguably the most complex Civil War battle and made it understandable to both novice and educated person alike. The result is a highly useful, quality product.

Normally I tour battlefields well armed with a map case, a Sylva compass, pencil, protractor, notebook(s), camera(s), and field glasses. All I needed at Chancellorsville this time was my cell phone. That is hard to beat.

I submit that apps are becoming the battlefield tour guides of choice. The technology is flexible, easily available, and portable. An app can be written for a first-time visitor or for the more sophisticated Staff Ride student. Historians and specialists now have the opportunity to bring the fruit of years of research into the hands of interested citizens visiting a National Park.

I look forward to using and reviewing more such apps.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Saturday, 8 April 1865: Notes are Exchanged

No word from Lee. Tension rises at Union headquarters. Grant has a persistent headache. Mead is suffering nausea. Around noon a reply comes from General Lee. He asks Grant for a discussion concerning “the restoration of peace”. The wording is vague, but it is clearly a request to negotiate a political solution. Grant immediately replies that he has no authority to negotiate a political settlement and his request for Lee’s surrender stands. President Lincoln anticipated this moment. On 3 March 1865 (the evening before he gave his second inaugural address) he sent a letter to General Grant in which he specified that if Lee were to surrender, Grant had no authority other than a military surrender of Lee’s army. Lincoln would retain the power for political negotiations if any were required. This is an important document because it affirms Article II, Section 2, of the United States Constitution that places the President, a civilian, in command of the armed forces, and thus responsible for political decisions. After the courier left with Grant’s reply, Grant remarked to his staff, “It looks as if Lee means to fight.” Meanwhile, General George Armstrong Custer’s cavalry attacked and destroyed Lee’s last supply convoy.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Friday, 7 April 1865, East of Appomattox

Friday, 7 April 1865. The action yesterday at Saylor’s Creek had cut off a third of Lee’s army, captured 6,000 Confederate soldiers, and destroyed most of the wagon’s in Lee’s supply column. This morning all three columns of the Army of the Potomac continue to advance. General Grant sent a messenger under a flag of truce through the lines with a letter to Lee. Grant asked Lee to surrender immediately. Lee responded by asking what were Grant’s terms? Grant replied that his terms would be the same as he offered at Vicksburg in 1863: parole until exchanged. Lee and Grant both knew that Lee’s surrender would virtually end the war. The offer of parole was a formality. The day passed without a reply from Lee.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Final Days of the Army of Northern Virginia (ANV)

Let’s catch up to General Grant’s pursuit of Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia (ANV) in the closing week of the Civil War. On, Tuesday, 4 April 1865, President Lincoln visited Richmond. I have told this story along with my visit to Richmond in 2007 in Clio Muses, “Lincoln’s Walk”, 6 December 2007, and invite you to scroll though this blog and read that essay.

On 3 April 1865 the last of the Confederate forces evacuated Richmond and various Union cavalry units moved into the city. Richmond had been under siege for several weeks; many buildings had been burned, some by the Confederates as they retreated; and the Confederate government (along with most white residents) had fled the city. Lincoln had been visiting Grant and on his return to Washington, D. C., he stopped at Richmond. Accompanied by Admiral Porter and a Navy guard, Lincoln walked from Rocket’s Landing on the James River to the Capital and President Davis’ house. He walked around Davis’ office and, according to eye-witness reports, sat in Davis’ chair. The crowds that gathered around him were mostly blacks and in several impromptu speeches Lincoln affirmed to them that they were now free men. The crowds cheered and frequently broke into song.

On 5 and 6 April Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia fights the last major battle of the war in the Eastern Theater of Operations at Saylor’s Creek. Lee’s losses were staggering and it was clear that the ANV was no longer an organized and effective fighting force. The only issue left for Lee was to disengage and prepare for what now was an inevitable surrender.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Civil War Sesquicentennial Notes, 2 April 1865

As General Picket is attempted to withdraw from yesterday’s devastation at Five Forks, General Grant directs the Army of the Potomac (AOP) to pursue Lee in three columns. The center column composed of three infantry corps and part of the Sheridan’s Cavalry Corps will follow the main body of the Army of Northern Virginia (ANV). The columns to the left and right (or north and south) will use forced marches to outflank and outmarch the ANV in order to circle around it. The first objective of the southern column was to interdict the Richmond & Danville Railroad south of Amelia Court House thus preventing supplies from reaching the ANV or from the ANV using the rails to flee south. At this point, the ANV consisted of about 30,000 troops, 200 guns, and around a 1,000 wagons. If Grant is successful in the next couple of days, those wagons will not pick up supplies at Amelia Court House. It has been over 72 hours since Lee’s soldiers have eaten. Their horses are becoming so weak from hunger and fatigue that they are getting stuck in the mud along the river and creek banks. Grant’s three column drive will give them no rest. The Union Army knows this is the last push that will end this long and hard war. If, on the other hand, Lee can get to Appomattox Court House, if his supplies are there, and if General Johnson (who is being pursued by General Sherman in North Carolina) can also reach Appomattox, the Confederate armies, Lee hopes, may survive. How big those “ifs” are will be answered in the coming week.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Civil War Sesquicentennial Notes, 1 April 1865

1 April 1865: The retreat to Appomattox continues. Sheridan renews his attack on Lee’s flank at Five Forks, VA. Lee orders General Picket (of Gettysburg fame) to “Hold at all costs.” By evening the cost to the Army of Northern Virginia is 5,000 casualties, the loss of General Picket’s division, and a valuable road network that now would serve to speed up the Union attack. “. . . the Army of the Potomac, officers and men, were so elated by the reflection that at last they were following up a victory it its end, that they preferred marching without rations to running a possible risk of letting the enemy elude them. So the march was resumed. . . .” General Ulysses S. Grant, The Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant William S. McFeely, ed. (De Capo Press: New York), 1982, p. 543.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Civil War Sesquicentennial Notes, March 1865

It is Friday, 31 March 1865. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia (ANV) has withdrawn from the trenches around Petersburg, Virginia and is retreating to Appomattox Court House. Lee must reach Appomattox quickly because he desperately needs the rations that have been moved by train from Danville, Virginia to Appomattox. On 30 March General Grant released General Sheridan’s cavalry to move fast and turn Lee’s left flank. Philip Henry Sheridan, born in Albany, New York in 1831 and graduated from West Point in 1853, had been given command of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac (AOP) the previous year. In September and October 1864 Sheridan, in a swift and hard hitting campaign, defeated General Early and drove him out of the Shenandoah Valley. For the entire war the Valley had been the “bread basket” for the ANV. Now, about five months later, Sheridan strikes hard on the left flank of Lee’s retreating army at White Oak Road, Dinwiddie Court House, Virginia again reducing Lee’s freedom of movement and turning what was to have been an orderly retreat into a hasty withdrawal. Lee, whose army was hungry, fatigued, and beginning to fray, now had to increase his march tempo to break contact with the AOP in order to reach his supply depot at Appomattox. The Confederate clock was ticking